Make sure the little T button in the swatches or color panel is selected, then choose a fill color.
Thanks for that. Yep, tried that - doesn't seem to want to work.
For existing text you'd need to either select the text (or you can select an UNthreaded frame to format all the text in the frame). You can also edit the character color in the character style or paragraph style to change all text to which the style is applied.
Can you post a screen shot? Is it true in all documents or just the one?
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piggyback on jane-e answer:
Do you have the same behavior in a new document?
Do you works with paragraph and character styles?
Do you works with (overwriting) grep styles?
Like jane-e said: a screenshot or an example IDML (or INDD with the information about the exaktly version of your ID) may be helpful.